Obama Administration

I’ve been following the strike by the University of Missouri football players that forced the resignation of the university president. I graduated U of Mizzou in 1973, so I have no inside information about what’s going on there now. But it sounds as if the campus is a genuinely hostile place for black students, which suggests it hasn’t changed all that much from when I was there. The students felt the university president was doing nothing to address the situation, and indeed appeared to disrespect the black students.

The problem back in the day, and probably now also, is that many of the white students are from rural counties with little or no black population. Seriously; there are rural counties with only 1 to 2 percent black population in Missouri. And as we learned from the Ferguson situation, Saint Louis never really integrated. It’s still a largely racially segregated state.

Back in the day, a lot of us white students on the Columbia campus had never before attended school with nonwhites. That was true for me, actually. And, shall we say, a lot of those white students didn’t want to adjust. It was not a welcoming place for black students. This is the part that doesn’t seem to have changed much. However, this time the black students appear to have been supported by faculty, and the football team provided the leverage.

There have been a number of other protests on campus this year, and not all about racism. It appears the graduate students have been at war with the state legislature. This timeline from the student newspaper, the Maneater, there have been protests over health care cuts and a canceled contract with Planned Parenthood, among other things. The injustices in nearby Ferguson also seem to have exacerbated the racism.

Good luck, Mizzou.



Stuff to Read

Obama Administration

First 0ff — Facebook has locked me out “for security reasons” and is not providing me with a reasonable way to get back in. Their test for proving I am who I am requires me identifying a number of Friends from their photos, but most of the photos are of babies or political candidates and I have no idea who they belong to. And, of course, a lot of people I have befriended on Facebook I don’t know in person and cannot recognize from photos. If you have access to my Facebook page could you please let people know that Facebook has bounced me and given me no way to appeal. I can’t even contact Facebook without logging in. Thanks much.

Here are a few things to read together —

First, Paul Krugman writes about the growing mortality rate among working-class whites in America:

If you believe the usual suspects on the right, it’s all the fault of liberals. Generous social programs, they insist, have created a culture of dependency and despair, while secular humanists have undermined traditional values. But (surprise!) this view is very much at odds with the evidence.

For one thing, rising mortality is a uniquely American phenomenon – yet America has both a much weaker welfare state and a much stronger role for traditional religion and values than any other advanced country. Sweden gives its poor far more aid than we do, and a majority of Swedish children are now born out of wedlock, yet Sweden’s middle-aged mortality rate is only half of white America’s.

You see a somewhat similar pattern across regions within the United States. Life expectancy is high and rising in the Northeast and California, where social benefits are highest and traditional values weakest. Meanwhile, low and stagnant or declining life expectancy is concentrated in the Bible Belt.

As I wrote last week, the rising mortality is mostly from self-destruction. There has been a huge spike in deaths from drug overdoses among working-class American whites, followed by an increase in suicides and in alcohol-related diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver. Among black and Latino Americans, who suffer the same if not worse economic stress, you don’t see the same trends. Krugman continues,

So what is going on? In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

In my book Rethinking Religion, I wrote about psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm (1900-1980) –

In Escape From Freedom, Fromm said that while people want freedom in the abstract, when they actually have it they can find it isolating and bewildering. Like Freud, Fromm was a psychoanalyst — although he didn’t always agree with Freud — and he looked deeply at humans as creatures of culture and society and also at the irrational and subconscious forces that drive us.

Among other things, we humans have a deep need to belong. We need to feel that our lives have some significance in the great scheme of things. We need to feel we have a secure position within our in-the-flesh social network. We need to feel related to the world, somehow. And we will grasp desperately at just about anything that will give us what we need to feel.

“Religion and nationalism,” Fromm wrote, “as well as any custom and any belief however absurd and degrading, if it only connects the individual with others, are refuges from what man most dreads: isolation.”

Quoting Fromm:

[M]an, the more he gains freedom in the sense of emerging from the original oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an “individual,” has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity of love and productive work, or else to seek a kind of security by such ties with the world as destroy his freedom and the integrity of his individual self.

Via Washington Monthly, here is a page about a documentary on divisions in America. One of the filmmakers writes of a scene in which an unemployed southern white man grapples with the reality that he’s one of Those People who need government assistance.

James’ personal need is in terrible conflict with his political beliefs, his sense of self, and a story about America, I’ll call it the Confederate South story, that he had being using to make sense of life.  …

… The basic story gives us a constant framework for understanding most of what happens in the public sphere and where the public and private intersect: these are the good people; these are the bad people; these are our values; these are their values, etc.

In short, a whole lot of Americans are living inside a conceptual framework that is utterly out of step with reality, and they don’t know how to adjust. IMO this is made worse by the fact that their political “leaders” are manipulating them to get votes rather than try to help them.  No good came come of this.

Here’s a scene from the documentary:



The War on Christmas Escalates

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I am linking to this without comment, except to say the writer is not trying to be funny. This is a Breitbrat; they have no sense of humor. Or any other sense, for that matter.


Social Security Disability Benefits a Leading Cause of Suicides, Says Wingnut

Obama Administration

This has got to be one of the most incoherent things I’ve ever read. Conservative writer and plagiarist Ben Domenech has noticed that the American working class is not doing so well, a fact that progressives have been hollering about lo these past few decades as conservatives like Domenech have championed anti-working-class policies. In particular he points to a study titled Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. A quote:

From 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45–54 fell by 2% per year on average, which matched the average rate of decline in the six countries shown, and the average over all other industrialized countries. After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2% a year. In contrast, US white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; Hispanic Americans had mortality declines indistinguishable from the British (1.8% per year), and black non-Hispanic mortality for ages 45–54 declined by 2.6% per year over the period.

If you look at the charts, the big leap was in the rate of non-intentional poisonings, which are mostly drug overdoses. This is followed by an increase in suicides and in liver disease, mostly caused by drinking. There was a smaller uptick in diabetes. And this effect is mostly seen in people with a high school education or less. Mortality rates for college-educated non-Hispanic whites have been in decline.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of reasons why this particular group might be stressed. Income inequality is a biggie. Blue-collar jobs that pay a living wage are in decline, for example. This is also a group that was most hit by loss of access to health care, and still is in a lot of states. Obamacare hasn’t been with us long enough to see a turnaround, IMO.  This group reports more chronic pain and poorer general health.

But according to Ben Domenech, the real villain here is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

In part, the reason for the ability of Americans to access SSDI as a kind of unemployment benefit fallback is due to a Reagan-era policy shift – via the unanimously passed 1984 Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act. This measure, which loosened criteria for eligibility, led to dramatic increases in those “hard to ascertain” diagnoses of chronic pain and mental illness as an avenue to benefit access.

Domenech says access to SSDI money has turned middle-aged non-hispanic white working folks into moochers who would rather stay home whining about their aching backs than go out and earn a living.

As a cultural matter, the picture is even worse. The surrender to the permanent trap of disability payments is a consequence of a loss of a certain American working class stoicism, which grappled with the tragic nature of life with what was essentially a 19th-century mentality. It was hard enough to deal with such a vision before the disintegration of working class marriage in the country – notice the contrast drawn by Charles Murray between the attitudes toward marriage and the experience of divorce in the white working class versus professionals.

Murray, like a lot of conservatives, gets things backward. The social psychologists find that marriage doesn’t give people more financially stable lives; they find that people with financially stable lives are more likely to marry. The moral, social and cultural erosion in working-class whites Murray clucks about did not cause the financial insecurity of their lives; the financial insecurity of their lives brought about moral, social and cultural erosion.

And if ease of getting one’s hands on SSDI benefits is causing all this sloth, how come it isn’t impacting black and Latino Americans, eh?

What Domenech is doing here is part of a campaign by the Right to attack and demonize SSDI, which they consider to be the “soft underbelly” of the Social Security system. If they can dismantle the Disability fund, maybe the Retirement fund can be whittled down next.  Rand Paul recently issued a diatribe about how Social Security was being robbed. Turns out that this was just a surplus of retirement funds re-allocated to make up for a deficit of disability funds, which is a normal thing. This article explains why Paul was screaming about nothing.


Wuss Nation

Obama Administration

Recent events show us that America is a nation of frightened people. But we are frightened of the wrong things.

For example, some of you pointed out a problem with “open carry” revealed by the recent shootings in Colorado Springs. Someone spots an apparently unhinged person walking around a residential neighborhood with a firearm, and sensibly calls police. But the police can’t do anything, and won’t respond to 911 calls, until the gunman actually starts killing people. Because in Colorado, open carry is legal.

So, because there are wusses who can’t so much as drive to a suburban Home Depot without being armed for self-defense, we’re all in more danger.

Here’s another one for you:

You all know how it is. You’re in a Sanford, Florida, Cracker Barrel on Sunday morning with the after-church crowd. A patron carrying a legally registered firearm is getting up to pay when his gun slips out of its holster, hits the floor, and “discharges” one round into your lower leg, requiring you to seek medical care for “non-life threatening injuries” before you can so much as finish your gravy-covered meal of gravy-fried gravy.

Yum, gravy-fried gravy. I hope that comes with biscuits. And the best part, which makes this just all-American perfect, is that because police decided this was an accident, it’s unlikely charges will be filed.

So, because this wuss and others like him are terrified that criminal elements are hiding along the Interstate somewhere between the Econo Lodge and the KFC, going out for biscuits and gravy can send you to the ER, and not because of e coli.

Chalk this one up to Teh Stupid — Houston voters rejected an equal-rights law, by all accounts because it would allow trans women to use women’s bathrooms. Opponents even were calling it the Bathroom Ordinance. Those of us d’un cer·tain âge might remember how the ghastly specter of unisex bathrooms helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. We Americans care deeply about keeping people using restrooms properly sorted by genitalia type.

Opponents of the bill shrieked that it would allow pedophiles and other perverts to molest women in restrooms. From the Dallas Morning News:

Apparently, when you take a routine civil-protections measure and feed it through the big anti-LGBT scarification machine what you get is the possibility that men might pee in the ladies room.

And not just any men, either. We’re talking about scary demented sex predator perverts, sharing the very same stalls with sweet little pig-tailed girls in their little plaid schoolgirl uniforms, or with modest elderly grandmas who use their lavender-scented hankies to avoid touching germy toilet handles with bare hands.  …

… “No Men In Women’s Bathrooms”! is the overwrought rallying cry around which opponents have gathered, like frightened cavemen huddled around the safety of the campfire.

The bill was about equal protection in matters like employment and housing, of course. I don’t know what the wusses think they’re accomplishing with barricading the restrooms, because frankly there ain’t nothin’ sexual predators could do in a restroom that they aren’t already doing elsewhere.

Anyway, the real issue is women in men’s restrooms. We are tired of perpetually standing in line while the menfolk breeze in and out of men’s rooms and don’t miss any of the game or movie.  We should just go where the line is shortest. Or make all restrooms unisex, and when the menfolk get tired of standing in line maybe they’ll see the wisdom in building more public restrooms.

Kentucky, one of the two southern high-poverty states that has visibly benefited from Obamacare — the other being Arkansas — just elected a governor who pledged to end Obamacare and shut down the state health insurance exchange.  Getting health care is scary. Apparently the election also was decided by issues such as “school choice,” meaning the dismantling of the public school system, to be replaced by corporate for-profit McSchools; against the federal government and its dastardly safety and environmental regulations that cut into coal mining profits; against secularism that demands public employees actually abide by the law; and against President Obama and his nefarious blackness.

In other words, Kentuckians just shot themselves in the foot, big time. Good luck, you poor fool wusses.



This Weekend’s Shootings


Lots of gun deaths in the U.S. of A.  this weekend, including some bona fide mass shootings that have the gun absolutists blaming Obama and oppressive gun restrictions.

On Saturday morning a gunman killed three people, apparently at random, in residential Colorado Springs. The gunman was shot and killed by police, who as of Sunday evening still weren’t releasing details about who he was.

Note that Colorado Springs is hardly a “gun-free zone.” Colorado gun laws are pretty much anything goes; the only restriction I could find is that a permit is required to carry a concealed handgun. (There are no restrictions on openly carrying anything, it seems.) But the state can’t deny a permit to anyone who doesn’t have a criminal record, and the gun enthusiast sites all say that it’s very easy to get a concealed carry permit in Colorado.

Comment at a right-wing blog: “If just one of the witnesses would have been a concealed carrier the dead count would have been less.” We don’t know that they weren’t. And it’s safe to assume lots of people in that residential area had guns in their homes.

One person was shot and another wounded at Winston-Salem State University this morning. The gunman got away. North Carolina also has permissive gun laws, and guns are not prohibited from public schools, which Winston-Salem State is. No “gun-free” zone involved.

Lots of other shootings this weekend, most apparently either accidents (some Halloween revelers in Maryland and Delaware celebrated by shooting at cars) or random “drive-by” type shootings.  If you’re just standing around on a street minding your own business, and somebody decides to shoot you for the hell of it, I’m not sure what good a concealed firearm might do you. You might consider a really thick helmet and body armor, though.

Welcome to America.




Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

It takes a pathological degree of self-obliviousness to be a white conservative guy like Jonah Goldberg and write this:

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson took a plausible stab at why Carson is popular. “They like him, they like him,” he repeated, referring to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere who admire Carson’s dignified and soft-spoken demeanor.

True enough; Carson has the highest favorables of any candidate in the GOP field.

But what’s remarkable is that at no point in this conversation did anyone call attention to the fact that Carson is an African-American. Indeed, most analysis of Carson’s popularity from pundits focuses on his likable personality and his sincere Christian faith. But it’s intriguingly rare to hear people talk about the fact that he’s black.

One could argue that he’s even more authentically African-American than Barack Obama, given that Obama’s mother was white and he was raised in part by his white grandparents. In his autobiography, Obama writes at length about how he grew up outside the traditional African-American experience — in Hawaii and Indonesia — and how he consciously chose to adopt a black identity when he was in college.

Meanwhile, Carson grew up in Detroit, the son of a very poor, very hard-working single mother. His tale of rising from poverty to become the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital is one of the most inspiring rags-to-riches stories of the last half-century. (Cuba Gooding Jr. played Carson in the movie about his life.) He was a towering figure in the black community in Baltimore and nationally — at least, until he became a Republican politician.

Like I said, it takes a pathological degree of self-obliviousness for Goldberg to assume he is in any way qualified to judge “authentic” African-Americanism. But note what Goldberg is saying here — he’s complaining that the world isn’t perpetually commenting on Ben Carson’s blackness.

It gets better. Goldberg then descends into the Usual Whining about how everybody picks on Republicans, and if a Democrat were to be treated as shabbily in media as Carson is being treated — the New York Times has stopped calling him “Dr.” — “charges of racism would be thick in the air.”

Then there’s the crowing about Hey, liberals — we got us a black politician, too! How do you like them apples?

How strange it must be for people who comfort themselves with the slander that the GOP is a cult of organized racial hatred that the most popular politician among conservatives is a black man. Better to ignore the elephant in the room than account for such an inconvenient fact. The race card is just too valuable politically and psychologically for liberals who need to believe that their political opponents are evil.

Carson’s popularity isn’t solely derived from his race, but it is a factor. The vast majority of conservatives resent the fact that Democrats glibly and shamelessly accuse Republicans of bigotry — against blacks, Hispanics, and women — simply because they disagree with liberal policies (which most conservatives believe hurt minorities). Yet conservatives also refuse to adopt those liberal policies just to prove they aren’t bigots. Carson — not to mention Carly Fiorina and Hispanics Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — demonstrates that there’s no inherent contradiction between being a minority (or a woman) and supporting conservative principles. And that fact is just too terrible for some liberals to contemplate.

Of course, that depends on what “conservative principles” one is talking about, but never mind.



The Smarter Brother

I can’t watch the debates here, but the overwhelming consensus after last night is that Jeb! is now Toast! Even Nate Silver says so.


No Excuses

Obama Administration

This. Is. Not. Acceptable.

As you may have heard, the police officer assaulting a South Carolina high school student in this video has been fired.

And, predictably, the wingnuts are sad. Yes, that’s right. The teen-age girl being assaulted in this video had it coming, they tell us, because the nice Officer Man had asked her nicely to leave the classroom, and she refused. So the Officer Man had no choice but to make her hurt.  Because a great big man couldn’t possibly have taken a 90-pound girl into hand and escorted her from the classroom otherwise.  (sarcasm off)

Some vile excrement named David French actually wrote:

This is what happens when a person resists a lawful order from a police officer to move (UPDATE: CNN is now reporting that a third video shows the student hitting the officer in the face when he initially put his hands on her). Unless the school is willing to have one student commandeer the classroom indefinitely, the officer has few options beyond physical force — and the use of physical force is rarely pretty to see. In this instance, the use of force was decisive, brief, and did not physically harm the student.

If in fact this assault did not harm the student, then the student, the policeman and the school are lucky. Because he could have snapped her neck or twisted her spine.

I don’t know if David French has children, but I suspect his tune would be very different if one of his offspring were manhandled like this, for any reason. And, for the record, I’m not accepting on face value anyone’s story of what this teenager was doing in the moments before the assault.

This is so obviously outrageous you’d have to be blind not to see the wrong here. But there are lots of blind people on this planet.  Indeed, the Dumbest Man on the Internet sees a double standard because a white principal was slammed to the floor by a black student (who was subsequently arrested and charged), and to him this is just the same thing as a large, and white, and male, police officer and Public Employee and Authority Figure violently assaulting a black teenage girl. And merely getting fired.

Yep, righties are whining that this is just the Liberal Media making a big Politically Correct deal out of nothing.

But this is not acceptable. There is no excuse for what the officer, Ben Fields, did in that video. I don’t care if she was not following directions. I don’t care if she punched him with her girlie little fist or spat at him or insulted his mother. He’s supposed to be an adult in charge. He’s supposed to be trained to handle situations like this in a professional and competent manner.

Oh, and the student who shot the video is still facing charges for shooting the video.


The Passion of Marco

Republican Party

Marco Rubio hates his Senate job, he says. This is why he’s not doing it. He has missed nearly 60 votes while he’s been off running for president.

Now the Miami Sun-Sentinel is telling him to resign. The Sun-Sentinel is behind a subscription firewall, but here’s the editorial from Balloon Juice:

Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intelligence briefings. He says he’s MIA from his J-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.

“I’m not missing votes because I’m on vacation,” he told CNN on Sunday. “I’m running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again.”

Sorry, senator, but Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. We’ve got serious problems with clogged highways, eroding beaches, flat Social Security checks and people who want to shut down the government.

If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it.

Let us elect someone who wants to be there and earn an honest dollar for an honest day’s work. Don’t leave us without one of our two representatives in the Senate for the next 15 months or so.

You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy — declined by some in the Senate — to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare.

You are ripping us off, senator.

That’ll turn up in a campaign ad sooner or later.

The most recent national poll of Republican primary voters has Dr. Dementia in first place and Trump  second, followed by Rubio. Jeb! is fourth, followed by the rest of the mutts in no important order. I have heard Jeb! is more worried by Rubio than by Dr. D or Mr. T, reasoning that the two outsider candidates will crash and burn sooner or later. Rubio is doing well in the betting market right now in the assumption that he’s in the best position to move into Number One when that happens.

However, neither Jeb! nor Rubio look that strong:

Mr. Rubio may be broadly acceptable, but his fund-raising tallies and overall campaign effort have been surprisingly limited. Mr. Kasich may be unacceptable to much of the party’s conservative wing, and his fund-raising isn’t impressive either. Mr. Bush has healthier fund-raising tallies — though apparently not healthy enough to forestall big cuts in his campaign operation — but very weak favorability ratings.

Jeb!’s campaign is arguing that Rubio is the GOP’s Obama — inexperienced senators who are running on charm and ethnic appeal rather than substance. But Brian Beutler argues that he’s really the GOP’s John Edwards, in the sense that he looks like a strong candidate but doesn’t really connect with voters as well as predicted.

Obama’s charisma was key to his appeal in 2008, but so too was the fact that he—as a young, African-American liberal who opposed the war in Iraq—reflected his party’s base better than Hillary Clinton, the anointed front-runner. By this more appropriate standard, the GOP’s Obama will be charismatic, yes—but old and white and nativist instead of young and ethnic and cosmopolitan. That’s Trump….

… Rubio is also making the most shallow appeal of any Republican in the field. The undisguised promise of his candidacy is that his youth and background will allow him to herald an orthodox Republican policy agenda as somehow distinct and visionary.

A Democrat would have to be caught eating live puppies to lose to this guy. Maybe not even then.

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